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Task force sends short-term rental recommendations to Planning Commission

Real Estate - Residential
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A handful of people attended the final Short-Term Rental Task Force meeting Monday to hear the members debate the official language of the recommendation ZL

Charleston’s Short-Term Rental Task Force voted Monday evening to move forward with its recommendations on legalizing and regulating the growing number of short-term rentals within the city. 

The 18-member task force, which voted 9-3 with six members not present, will meet with the city’s Planning Commission on Oct. 5 to draft an ordinance to send to Charleston City Council.

Click to view larger. Class 1, in purple, is the Old and Historic District; Class 2, in tan, is the Old City District; and Class 3 covers the rest of the city. The black box is the Cannonborough-Elliotborough neighborhood, where short-term rentals are currently legal. (Photo/Patrick Hoff)

The details

The Short-Term Rental Task Force recommended the following:

  • All hosts must apply for a short-term rental permit and a separate business license. Hosts must list their permit number on all advertisements of their rental unit and display their business license within the property.
  • Hosts must “reside overnight” on the property when guests are present and give guests their contact information and be “generally available” during other times of day in case of emergency.
  • Maximum occupancy in a short-term rental would be four adults.
  • Short-term rentals must provide one off-street parking spot for guests. For Class 3, if hosts offer several rooms for sleeping, they must provide one off-street parking space per bedroom.
  • Hosts must carry $500,000 in liability insurance.

“I just want to thank you for the time and dedication you’ve put into it,” said Mayor John Tecklenburg, who attended the first hour of the meeting. “I think it’s going to be a real plus for our city long term.”

Tecklenburg said he had not previously attended task force meetings because he wanted the committee to come up with its recommendations independently, without pressure from the city.

The committee, created last summer, recommends that all short-term rentals must be the host’s primary residence and that only one short-term rental be allowed per taxable property.

The recommendations would do away with current language regulating bed-and-breakfasts and break down residential short-term rental permits into three classes: Class 1, which is equivalent to the current B&B permit in the Old and Historic District; Class 2, equivalent to the current B&B permit in the Old City District; and Class 3, a new permit that applies to all other areas of the city.

For Class 2 and Class 3 permits, the building would have to be at least 50 years old. To qualify for a Class 1 permit, the structure must be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

There was some debate Monday over whether it would be enough to require that Class 1 rentals be a contributing structure to a historic district — defined as any building or structure that adds to the historical integrity of the neighborhood. But it was decided by a 10-2 vote that such a designation would be too broad.

City Planning Director Jacob Lindsey said the city intends to hire three staff members to enforce the ordinance, looking at reports and online ads to identify violations. Any violations would result in revocation of the short-term rental permit, and owners would not be allowed to reapply for a permit for two years.

A debate on the Cannonborough-Elliotborough neighborhood, where short-term rentals are currently legal, ended in a stalemate Monday when task force members could not agree on how best to phase out the current regulations and bring the neighborhood into the new ordinance.

Lindsey said the short-term rental recommendations are similar to current ordinances in New Orleans and San Francisco.

“There’s lots of little details ... but this at least let me know that we’re generally not too far off the mark in how other cities are regulating short-term rentals,” he said.

Lindsey said it’s hard to calculate how many short-term rentals there would be in the city if the recommendations become city ordinance, but he said there could be potentially thousands. There are currently more than 300 homes listed on Airbnb, one of the more popular short-term rental websites, despite the current ban throughout most of the city.

Reach Patrick Hoff at 843-849-3144.

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